10 November 2017

Uganda: Soldiers Accused of Torturing Civilians

Nwoya — Two civilians are nursing injuries following brutal assault they claim was carried out by UPDF soldiers guarding 10,000 hectares of a disputed piece of land in Nwoya District.

The duo, who is admitted to St Mary's Hospital Lacor in Gulu Town, was reportedly assaulted last Tuesday by the soldiers guarding land purportedly owned by Ms Harriet Aber, an associate of Gen Salim Saleh, in Got Okwara village, Lungulu Sub-county.

The victims were part of 66 households who had resettled on the land for more than a year after UPDF soldiers reportedly evicted them on the orders of Ms Aber.

Speaking from his hospital bed on Wednesday, Mr Samuel Onek, 39, who suffered a broken left arm, said they were attacked as they attempted to return to their land from which they were evicted in June last year.

"We had hired a vehicle to transport nearly 66 households who had been evicted from their land. We were about three kilometres away from the land when our vehicle got stuck in the muddy road. The driver and I decided to sleep in the vehicle as others [mostly women and children] went and camped nearby," Mr Onek narrated. He said on Friday at about 4am, some four armed soldiers approached them and ordered him out of the vehicle.

"They moved with me in the cold for three hours and when we reached Ms Aber's residence, they started caning, slapping and kicking me," he said.

Mr Onek said he was later detained from Friday until Saturday in a "torture house" without receiving any medical care.

Mr Andrew Okot, another victim, said he was caned hundreds of lashes from Friday morning until Saturday when he and Mr Onek were released from the torture room.

The 4th Division army spokesperson, Major Telesphor Turyamumanya, said they are trying to establish whether the perpetrators were UPDF soldiers.

However, Ms Aber denied the allegations that soldiers brutalised the residents, saying the victims could have sustained injuries in a fight with her squatters. "I acknowledge that they crossed into my land, but whatever happened to them, I don't know," she said.

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